820 F2d 1220 United States v. Lindh

820 F.2d 1220
Unpublished Disposition

UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,
Dorrance LINDH, Defendant-Appellant.
UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,
Gary A. MEINHARD, Defendant-Appellant.

Nos. 86-5053, 86-5560.

United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit.

Argued Nov. 14, 1986.
Decided June 9, 1987.

NOTICE: Fourth Circuit I.O.P. 36.6 states that citation of unpublished dispositions is disfavored except for establishing res judicata, estoppel, or the law of the case and requires service of copies of cited unpublished dispositions of the Fourth Circuit.

Before SPROUSE and WILKINSON, Circuit Judges, and HAYNSWORTH, Senior Circuit Judge.

Brian Knox Miller; Larry A. Pochucha (Smith & Pochucha, on brief), for appellants.

Kent S. Robinson (Henry E. Hudson, United States Attorney); N.G. Metcalf, Assistant United States Attorney, on brief), for appellee.


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Dorrance Lindh and Gary A. Meinhard were convicted of conspiracy to file false claims for federal income tax refunds in violation of 18 U.S.C. Sec. 286. On appeal, they contend that the evidence is insufficient to support the verdicts of guilt.


We affirm.



Nine false income tax returns were received by the Internal Revenue Service at the Memphis Service Center. Each of them bore the name, with some variations, of one of five prisoners in the Brunswick Correctional Center in Lawrenceville, Virginia. On each return, the refund requested exceeded $2,000 except the refund claimed on Meinhard's return of $1,700.02. The returns were accompanied by false W-2 forms showing Best Products, Inc. as the employer.


The IRS recognized the falsity of the returns. One of its special agents caused refund checks to be issued and delivered to an officer with the Brunswick Correctional Center. Upon instructions, that officer delivered each check to the payee, but received the check back after the payee had endorsed it ostensibly for deposit into his prison trust account. That same afternoon, Lindh requested disbursement of $1,500 to Shirley Searfoss for purchases of a color television set and other personal articles. Other of the payees also requested disbursements from their trust accounts.


A handwriting expert offered as a witness by the prosecution testified that all of the returns were prepared by Billy Kelly and that all of the W-2 forms, except Lindh's, were typed on the same typewriter in the prison library. The handwriting expert was unable to say, however, that the signature on each of the returns was that of its purported filer.


The defendants presented no evidence. Lindh and Meinhard, the only ones before us on this appeal, were acquitted by the jury on the charge of filing a false federal tax refund claim, but were found guilty of conspiring to file such false claims.



Lindh and Meinhard contest the sufficiency of the evidence to support the conviction of conspiracy, pointing to the absence of direct evidence of a conspiracy agreement. They suggest that Kelly could have prepared, signed and filed the false refund claims without their participation or knowledge. Their contention is unpersuasive.

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Under 26 U.S.C. Sec. 6064, the fact that a person's name is signed to a return is prima facie evidence that the return was actually signed by that individual. Lindh's name was signed to his return and Meinhard's to his. Neither made any attempt to rebut the statutory presumption.


Moreover, each readily accepted and endorsed the refund check. They suggest that, in the tight security of a prison environment, their endorsements were not truly voluntary, but it is difficult to see how the prison environment would coerce an inmate to avoid disclaimer of funds to which he knew he was not entitled. The readiness with which Lindh and others sought disbursements from their trust accounts strongly suggests that refunds were eagerly received.


The essence of the defendant's contention on appeal is that an inference of innocence is more readily drawn from the circumstantial evidence than an inference of guilt. That is not a question for determination by an appellate court, however. It was for the jury to determine which inference should be drawn from the evidence. Our duty is to uphold the verdict if the evidence, viewed in the light most favorable to the prosecution, reasonably supports the verdict.


There is adequate support for the verdict. The unrebutted presumption that Lindh and Meinhard each signed refund claim forms, coupled with the evidence that each accepted and endorsed the refund check warranted the jury's finding that each was a participant in the conspiracy to file the false tax refund claims.